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Sep 13

Madness, Machismo or Ministry?

Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012 in Emotional, Relational, Spiritual, Sports, Values

I read Curtis Eichelberger’s new book Men of Sunday this weekend.  It’s a compelling book I’ll quote several times this week before I post my full review this weekend. 1

As I read Eichelberger’s piece on former “Pro Bowl Denver Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth I was inspired, awed, and perplexed.

I had to ask, is this man mad, filled with machismo or ministry minded?

Madness, Machismo or Ministry?

Mark Schlereth, now an ESPN analyst, “had seven surgeries before he got out of college. It was so bad, the school ‘retired’ him after his junior season and would only let him back on the field his senior year after he begged. And even then, he had to sign a waiver releasing the school of any legal liability for the damage he was inflicting on his body.”

“Schlereth epitomized toughness and competitiveness for twelve NFL seasons. By the time he retired after the 2000 season, he’d undergone twenty-nine surgeries,” — 29 surgeries!!! —  “including twenty on his knees.”

“Schlereth’s stories were legendary. One season, he developed a kidney stone and awoke writhing in pain the day before a Monday Night Football game against the Broncos’ AFC West rival Oakland Raiders.

He waited for his wife to wake up at 7:00 a.m. to take him to the hospital where he spent most of the day on morphine and an IV drip waiting for the stone to pass. No luck.

At 9:30 p.m., doctors surgically removed the stone, and when Schlereth woke up the following morning, he needed morphine to staunch the pain of urinating. To the surprise of most everyone, Schlereth checked himself out of the hospital at 11:00 a.m., drove himself to the team’s pregame meal, and started (the game) that night.”

Madness, Machismo and Ministry?

Schlereth says his football celebrity gave him a voice and stature that allowed him to serve God’s purpose in many ways. “I had a chance to minister to kids [after the shootings] at Columbine High School…It helped that he was 6-foot-3, 282 pounds and had a reputation for dealing with pain.

When he reached out to love others in need, or to provide a shoulder to cry on, he was like a magnet, drawing people in to hear more. It’s one of those ironies in life. When a big, powerful man acts big and powerful, he can seem brutish, distant, even feared. But when a powerful man is gentle and caring and loving, he becomes all the more powerful because he is loved back; he is admired for the control he has of that strength rather than feared for it.

“For me,” Schlereth shares, “it was important to be a child of Christ, but that doesn’t mean I’m not one tough son of a gun. You know? Right? A lot of times there is this feeling of, ‘Oh, there is the Bible-thumper of the team. Those guys are soft.’ What? Because I try to love people and care for people, that makes me less of a football player? Not true.

“Go to the second chapter of Philippians where Paul is writing to the church of Philippi from prison and he’s talking about how you should treat one another, how you should love one another, and be of the same mind, body, and spirit and treat others as more important than yourself. That was a big part of what I felt like I was doing.”

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mind-set as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature of God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1–11)

“That scripture still inspires me on a daily basis,” Schlereth continues. “How am I loving people? Am I living out that particular scripture and regarding others as more important than myself? It was important to me to display that aspect of my life to the people around me including to my teammates.”

1 – Curtis Eichelberger’s Men of Sunday is available here.

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